A Life in Whisky – How Ian Buxton became a whisky expert

August 19, 2014, Article by Tom in Books, Food

Picture the scene: it’s winter. It’s cold outside, and the rain is hammering down. But you’re inside, sat on a comfy armchair (possibly leather, it’s up to you) by a roaring fire, and you’re sipping on a fine dram. Nice isn’t it?

We love a good whisky, and we like to pretend we know what we’re talking about when it comes to picking out the good ones, but we really don’t. Luckily, we know a man who does. With the latest book in his hugely successful 101 Whiskies series (101 Legendary Whiskies You’re Dying to Try But (Possibly) Never Will) available now, author Ian Buxton explains just how he became a whisky expert…

I started working in whisky by accident. We were living in London and working for a brewery company when my wife and I decided to bring our young family back to Scotland where we had grown up. I wanted to stay in the brewing industry but there were no jobs available so I opted for a position with a whisky blender instead.

I loved it! Within two years I had joined one of Scotland’s top single malts as their Marketing Director and some while after that set up my own consultancy business in brand development (I still do some of that). Then another accident – I was asked to write an article for the launch of Whisky Magazine. They liked that and asked for more, and then more. I still write for them and a number of other magazines as well these days.

So that led to more and more writing and eventually my first book. Along the way I set up an industry conference, imaginatively called the World Whiskies Conference; bought a derelict distillery (just a small one and very derelict, I really wanted the house next door but the distillery came with it); wrote some more books including the first in the 101 Whiskies series, which surprised and pleased us all with how very well it sold and generally got myself into the position where people paid me to do things that I enjoyed.

I wish I could tell you that there was a cunning master plan, but it started by accident and carried on in much the same way, with the odd incident along the way. Hard though it is to credit now, whisky was pretty much in the doldrums when I started, with vodka and white run (OK, Bacardi) very much the fashionable choice. They still sell lots, of course, but in the last few years whisky – all sorts, not just Scotch – has become incredibly chic once again, with many younger drinkers and female drinkers acquiring the taste. The level of consumer knowledge is impressive, or, if I’m being honest, sometimes quite frightening – it keeps me on my toes!

The great thing about the industry is its history, depth, heritage, international appeal and inherent sociability (that’s several great things). While companies do compete, they do so in a well-mannered way and it’s not unknown for a distillery to help out a rival if a vital piece of equipment breaks down. There’s a friendly community of writers and, today, enthusiastic bloggers who meet at industry tasting events, compare notes and pass on news and gossip. Generally, lots of gossip goes down well with a dram or three.

I really believe that 101 Legendary Whiskies is the best in the series. It’s got the most varied stories, the greatest characters and the most depth (don’t let this put you off buying the first two if you haven’t already!). I greatly enjoyed writing it and was able to explore some wider themes and issues. It isn’t just for ‘whisky buffs’; I think anyone who likes a good story can dip in and find something they’ll enjoy.

I couldn’t have written it without a life steeped in whisky and I hope that you can share the pleasure it’s given to me.

Follow Ian on Twitter: @101Whiskies

And watch Ian discuss 101 Legendary Whiskies You’re Dying to Try But (Possibly) Never Will

And you can buy the book HERE. Happy drinking!